The sirens wailed on cue — mostly

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate April 01, 2013 01:42 pm


Test goes well, but some Klamath sirens stayed silent

At precisely 11 a.m. on Wednesday, all of the tsunami sirens in Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties were activated from the National Weather Service’s Eureka Office.

At least, that was the plan. 

And for the most part, the annual tsunami warning communications test on the North Coast did in fact run smoothly, but a few sirens were not triggered as planned, including two in Klamath, one in Trinidad and the siren at Big Lagoon Rancheria.

Audible airborne announcements from Civil Air Patrol airplanes based in Southern Oregon were canceled for Del Norte County and north of Westhaven-Moonstone in Humboldt at the last minute due to weather. Airborne announcements for most of Humboldt and Mendocino counties, however, were conducted as planned as that Civil Air Patrol unit was based in the San Francisco Bay Area, although overcast weather made the messages hard to hear for some, according to California Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Greg Renick.




“The potential for weather problems in a real emergency was a reminder that using a multiple-pronged approach to alerting the public is really important,” Renick said. “That’s why we try to have redundancies in our programs.”

Stakeholders from the three North Coast counties connected via conference call Wednesday afternoon to review what worked well, what didn’t and how those problems can be resolved.

Preliminary reports indicated that emergency alert system broadcasts on participating local TV and radio stations were successful, although the audio was hard to hear with static in some instances, Renick said.

Outreach to let the public know that the exercises conducted Wednesday were in fact a test seemed to be successful as there were only four inquiring phone calls to the non-emergency line of the Del Norte County Sheriff’s office and not a single 911 call.

Most public feedback was positive from Humboldt and Mendocino counties, although “there are always calls from people that are unhappy because their favorite program was interrupted,” Renick said.

In the Del Norte sheriff’s dispatch office, county emergency services manager Cindy Henderson fielded a few calls on her cell phone, which she has programmed with a tsunami siren ringtone.

One of the calls was from Tim Sanderson, the Yurok Tribe’s emergency services specialist, who informed Henderson that the siren at the Yurok Tribe’s Public Safety Office in Klamath failed to go off as planned.

“And that’s exactly why we do these tests,” Henderson said. 

The siren in Klamath Glen also failed to scream its warning. Either the siren at Requa or the mouth of the Klamath worked properly, but it was unclear which one, Henderson said.

Since three of the four Klamath tsunami sirens were manually activated before recently being connected to the Eureka National Weather Service-activated system, Henderson said that the problem with the sirens is “typical, because they are trying to work out the bugs.”

The four sirens in Crescent City (at the harbor, cultural center, wastewater treatment plant and the Flynn Center) worked properly, as did the siren in Smith River at Howonquet Hall.

“One of reasons we do drills and exercises is to test what went well and what didn’t go well and then we try to make changes to make sure things run as effectively as possible,” Renick said. “We had great coordination between all the stakeholders, so we were happy about that.”

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